One More Word about American Girl Dolls

In previous blog entries, I’ve been discussing less expensive alternatives to American Girl Dolls. Ed Gawlinski wrote in to tell us about some of the pluses of buying an actual American Girl Doll. One point he made was that the characters in the books are good role models for girls.

Since then, I came across a blog article about how a six year old girl brought her less expensive doll to the American Girl Store in New York City. At the store, they style the hair of American Girl Dolls. But they refused to style the little girl’s doll’s hair because it wasn’t an authentic American Girl Doll, even though the girl was in tears.

I called the store to see what their policy is and they confirmed that they don’t style other dolls’ hair. So be warned if you go to the store. It holds true even if you bring your child there for a birthday party and her friends all bring their dolls – any dolls that aren’t American Girl Dolls can’t be styled.

My first reaction to hearing this was to be appalled. But, after considering it for a while, I can understand why they would have a policy like this. It took me about an hour to brush out the hair of my daughter’s non-American Girl Doll and I had to work hard to make it look good.

Nonetheless, there must be a better way to handle it. What do we want to teach our kids? That they live in a world of exclusivity – that only the well off can take part in special activities. They’re excluded – or their friend is excluded – because she doesn’t have that doll?

Instead, shouldn’t they try to craft their polices to help teach children compassion for others?

The American Girl Dolls institution should try to be a good role model – just like the characters in the American Girl Dolls books!

This article was posted on Friday, January 11th, 2008 at 7:39 pm and is filed under American Girl Books, American Girl Dolls, Books & Stories, Countries & Cultures, Dolls, Me Dolls, Parenting, Toys, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “One More Word about American Girl Dolls”

  1. Ed Gawlinski Says:

    American Girls dolls and books were originally developed by a person whose goal was to provide high quality and historically accurate dolls along with books that told interesting stories about fictional girls who provide strong role models and accurately portrayed the time period in which the stories were set. Mattel is now the owner of American Girls. While they have kept the original dolls they have significantly expanded the line. They have also opened these boutiques (about which I have no experience or opinion). I would, however, suggest that the goal of Mattel is to make money (lots of money.)

    The books are available for free in most public libraries. I would recommend these to any parent. I would expand this to recommend that books are the great presents to give to children and I recommend giving these books to kids. The dolls and clothes are very expensive, but if your present budget is large enough to accommodate the dolls, I think they are a good choice.

    The clothes a girl can wear to match her doll’s outfits are very expensive for play clothes. I would expect that the American Girls’ Boutique and Bistro in New York City, Atlanta, and Dallas are places to spend a lot of money. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the doll hair salon is not for free. Families who are spending at this level probably live in a world of exclusivity. I don’t think that this was the original intent of Pleasant T. Rowland however, it is very profitable for Mattel.

    It is my opinion that the best benefits are derived the least expensive products in this line. That is the books. The most expensive products in this line provide, in my opinion, the least benefits. Buy the books, read them with your daughter, and talk about how it was to live in that time period.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Hi Ed,

    I appreciate your input in this discussion! It’s important to have as many views as possible.

    Re. the little girl at the “boutique” – I just had to comment about that since it seems like such a cruel policy they have. I couldn’t just let it go!

    Yet I agree with you that there’s value in the American Girl Dolls. I just would like to see them have a kinder face toward kids. Perhaps we’ll put a little pressure on them and encourage them to change their policy! You never know.

    Best regards,


  3. Laura Modrell Says:

    American Doll Treasures offers affordable 18 inch Doll Clothes, Doll shoes, Doll furniture, and doll accessories for your 18 inch American Girl Type Dolls and Bitty Baby type dolls.

  4. Meg Says:

    We were cleaning out the garage and I came across these three snarly haired, filthy dolls. I recognised Felicity since she was the first. The other is American Indian or Latino I am not sure, and then there is an unrecognizable blonde.
    My daughter had to have them. She never read the books. We used to hide the catalouges when they came in the mail.
    I am so glad those days are over. Good to know their hair could be done somewhere. I wonder how it would go over if I walked into the store with the poor naked historical icons and asked to have their hair done….
    Sorry to have rambled for so long.

  5. Rachel Says:

    Although it sounds cruel to be exclusive about no other dolls allowed in the hair salon, this has to be because then everyone would want to bring a non American Girl Doll to be styled. I have been to American Girl Store in New York and it is a girls dream, but it is all about the dollar with these people and so sad that everything is made in China when it is supposed to be an AMERICAN GIRL DOLL! Anyway, they will supply a child with any American Girl doll if you would like to eat in the Bistro, which I must say is a very neat experience. I agree with the person who recommended going to the library to get the books. This was always a special treat for my daughter and now one of her favorite past times is to play Colonial era with her friends outside. I trully believe this creativity it is due to what she has learned from the books. A better way to spend your money would be to make a costume or get one on the internet. There are many people on ebay who make American Girl doll costumes. My kids play for hours make believe with their costumes I’ve collected. Sorry for rambliing. Best of Luck! Buy Made in the USA!

  6. Doll Clothes Girl Says:

    Hi Lisa – Although you can understand the policies of a commercial enterprise not necessarily being child friendly – it is impossible to understand the way the little girl was treated. American Girl is responsible for making sure that their employees treat others in a kind and sensitive manner. We offered her a special discount at Emily Rose where we already have great deals and prices on clothing furniture and accessories to fit your American Girl Doll. We even have 18 inch dolls that are more affordable.

  7. JessMom Says:

    My daughter started out with the less expensive Target brand doll. Then when she saved her money,she bought an American Girl doll which she absolutely loves.

    I’m really surprised at all the responses all over the internet about how mean the American Girl company is because they turned away a doll from the salon that was not made by their company. None of us knows how the exact conversation went down that day when they refused the doll in the salon. I really doubt they were outwardly mean to the girl and of course the girl would be upset if her doll couldn’t get styled.

    Mattel has to think of the liability involved. First the quality of hair on some less expensive dolls is really low. That means that some poor quality doll, even though she may be well loved, just may not be able to be fixed. And what happens if some lower quality non American Girl doll comes in and the stylist tries to work on the hair and something bad happens, then what? They give the person a $90 doll to replace their $20 matted hair doll? Then every garage sale doll would be in the salon, and the girls would be leaving with a brand new doll. I’m just really surprised how many people are ready to bad mouth the company.

    I would rather my daughter be home reading about history and playing with a $90 doll then so many other things kids her age are doing.

  8. abodilioteoma Says:

    Hi All.

    Nice forum.happy to be here and hope to be more involved.


  9. Abby Says:

    I have for years refused to spend the money for an American Girl Doll. My daughter first saw the catalog at age 6 or 7 and has been wanting one ever since. We stuck to the books- she loves them still.

    I just don’t agree with the amount of money involved in buying a 7 yo a doll that she would probably leave on the floor, along with most of her toys.

    Just as stated above, the founder had a purpose that was good. The original doll maker, Gotz, was commisioned and the dolls cost about what a Gotz doll cost. Made sense. They are German and very well made. Mattel makes them in China and they are made more cheaply now.

    My daughter is 13 now and still wants one. She and I talk a lot about it, especially the money. We researched the creator, company and the doll’s collectability. I like that she still wants to be herself and tap into her innate creativity through playing with dolls. I bought a used one on Ebay, Felicity. Still not cheap, they hold their value if well cared for.

    We descussed first why and what would we do after the purchase. We would make her clothes. We researched and learned more about the fashion during the American revolution times, purpose of the clothes (like why they had pinner aprons and why they had different hats and types of clothes-eg wash day outfit, sleep caps), as well as materials that were available in each era the dolls are from. History-great. She is very into it.

    She takes better care of Felicity than any other thing in her room. She plays differently with it than she would have at age 7. She also plays dolls with her 6 year old sister now. It’s all good. (Except 6 year old sister has a knock off with dredlocks (sp?) and wishes for a “real” american girl doll.) They make up plays to act out with their colonial dolls. It’s all good, but she had to learn to appreciate and understand what an expensive collectable doll is first. She is willing to work and earn her doll collection. She now wants Nellie, Samantha’s friend. And she wants to learn how to make those historically accurate clothes. She will have to spend her own money, which she is willing to do.

    These dolls were created for 12 year old girls, not young kids who want everything they see. The creator intended them for older girls, who are more capable of taking care of the expensive doll, because she felt there was nothing available for the older girls who still play with dolls. I also want to encourage that, but my 6 year old will need to wait until she too is at that “place” that my 13 year old is.

  10. Julie Says:

    Hi all,

    You know, I had never really paid any attention to American Girl dolls until a vendor came into my store with clothes for them. So I looked it all up online and was really surprised at the cost of it all. And parents are EXPECTED to pay that! Terrible, especially with the current economy. I can’t believe people spend as much, or more, on their daughter’s doll clothes as on clothes for their daughters!

    Anyway, off my high horse now:-) So, my vendor started selling handcrafted doll clothes in my store and it got popular. It’s still not real cheap, but definitely a lot cheaper then the “real thing”. As it got popular we brought in more stuff like shoes, backpacks, etc. And now we have a following. But since I got so much of “I never knew where to buy it until a friend told me about your store” I thought I would put the information out there where I thought it could be of use! You ca find reasonably priced, quality clothes and accessories at:

    Remember that all of our items are for 18″ or so dolls, they don’t have to be American Girl!

  11. Beth Says:

    Let me clar something up.

    That young girl who got turned down, that story? Most of that was made up. Besides, Amercan Girl was created to deal in AG dolls. The stylists probably didn’t know how to manage other doll’s hair.
    Besides, say you had a honda car that needed replcemnt parts. The logical thing would be to go to Honda for a Honda car part. Say you went to Ford, for example. They would turn you down because they didnt have those parts.

    Besides, all you people who complain about AG, please. Just get a life. You don’t HAVE to go out and buy them. Its not like taxes where you could be arressted for not paying them. Just like you don’t have to buy a Wii, you don’t have to buy AG dolls. So why do so many people complain about them??

  12. Tristina Cole Says:

    At Tween Scene Boutique in Santa Monica this very problem was solved, well kinda. They decided to have made, 18″ doll clothing, super trendy stuff like their store, skinny jeans junk food tshirts, abercrombie styled stuff, all from recycled clothing. It is an amazing concept and the clothing is all really cool and much more up to date. It is green, and inexpensive. It makes sense since the store is all recycled upscale clothing, some new, but mostly used stuff. Amazing.
    (310) 395-4600

  13. AG Mom Says:

    I feel that its worth the extra money to get the American Girl brand doll. However, we save money on clothes, furniture and accessories by purchasing them in other places. My favorite money saving option is You can follow them on Facebook to win free stuff too.

  14. Lynette Says:

    I buy my daughters and neice American girl doll clothes at They have beautiful quality clothes that fits my budget and all their doll clothes come in their gift box.
    I love their fast shipping and the woman is very nice and helpful.

    They always run contest for cool outfits and gift certificate and hopefully I will be the next winner.

  15. Leigh Says:

    We’re making all kinds of cool doll beds!
    Check us out at:

    -Kathleen, age 7

    Very Affordable, too!

    -Mom, age a secret……

  16. Adorable Doll Clothes Says:

    Adorable Doll Clothes online store features a large selection of doll clothes and doll accessories made to fit the American Girl® doll and Bitty Baby® dolls.

    For more information regarding our Adorable Doll Clothes for 18 inch dolls like the American Girl doll or 15 inch dolls like the Bitty Baby dolls shop our doll clothes website at

  17. K Girlie Says:

    I work at American Girl. Our policy is that we DO accept other brand dolls and style their hair. Now, the mother must sign a waiver, and they may only pick from $10 hairstyles. This is because most other brand dolls do not have manageable hair, and for the sake of time and quality, we limit it.
    This story sounds fishy. Either the child and mother wanted a hairstyle we couldn’t offer, or we could not style the hair due to damage. The phrase the “stylist” uttered is one that we are specifically trained to never, ever say. Sensitivity is one of the most important part of our jobs at the hair salon. We are never, ever allowed to say that to a child, especially in that manner.
    Please do more research before supporting such a ridiculous story.

  18. Lisa Says:

    K Girlie – thanks for your input. That article is from 7 – 8 years ago. It seems the store improved its policy. I’m glad to hear that!

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